Dietitian Shares: Is It Safe to Have Artificial Sweeteners During Pregnancy?

Dietitian Shares_ Is It Safe to Have Artificial Sweeteners During Pregnancy_ - Tian Wei Signature

The War on Diabetes was launched by the Singapore Ministry of Health to help Singaporeans to take ownership and co-create solutions to reduce the prevalence of diabetes in the community. It’s been five years since the launch according to The Strait’s Times and it’s hardly made a dent in reducing the prevalence of diabetes in the community.

One of the active steps you see is that many of the drinks sold in our local hawker, food courts and restaurants are “less sugar” options. Many of these drinks like Coke Zero or Pepsi black does not contain any sugar, but it is fully replaced with non-nutritive sweetener. Original coke, sprite or usual packet drinks would have 30 to 50% reduced sugar with some added non-nutritive sweetener to compensate for the sweet taste that many consumers are used to.  All these drinks are so readily available even at cinemas and many food eatery places without any additional charges. 

So, are these non-nutritive sweeteners doing any good to the community? How is it really affecting us from the inside out? More importantly, are they safe for pregnant mummies? 

Safe or Not Safe

It is considered generally safe by several government guidelines including but not limited to Australia, New Zealand, and The United States of America. Although there aren’t any links to cancer, controversy remains over its impact on obesity and metabolic health.

Research finds a possible association between those who take artificial sweetener and a higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. One of the theories discussed on how this phenomenon happens despite artificial sweeteners being zero calories, is due to dysregulation in the appetite mechanism. The brain still receives the signals from the sweet taste which strengthens the reward system and increases the desire for more sweet food, but the body does not receive signals for satiety due to zero calories. This in turn creates the desire to eat more due to lesser satiety, thus weight gain.

Impact on Babies 

One human study on pregnant women found that artificially sweetened beverages may be linked to increasing risk of early childhood overweight. This gives an insight into how impactful nutrition is in early programming.

It is important to note that sweeteners like saccharine and acesulfame potassium cross the placenta and expose the foetus to these sweet-tasting chemicals. This creates a taste preference and dependence on sweeter foods, thus babies with a higher tendency to have sweet-tasting foods which translate to a higher risk of obesity.

Other discussions are possible effects of non-nutritive sweeteners on gut health which leads to other gut-related functions, glucose, and weight regulation. Further research is needed to investigate the underlying biological mechanism. 

Impact on Mummies

There was also a landmark study on Danish women who drank large quantities of at least one drink per day of artificially sweetened soft drinks during pregnancy were significantly more likely to have pre-term births. This study was over an analysis of 59,000 pregnant women.

Whilst there is debate around alternative sweeteners during pregnancy, it’s best to minimise intake wherever possible due to the impact of sweeteners on taste preferences in the foetus. As much as possible, reducing sugar is more important and sustainable as compared to replacing it with a non-nutritive sweetener.

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So if you are considering finding a suitable confinement catering Singapore service, it’s important to understand the foods they are serving such as adequate protein, vegetables and incorporation of whole grains to sneak up more fibre into the diet. Foods like Chinese confinement soup is also a great option for mummies to have as an alternative way to hydrate themselves apart from warm water or red dates tea. It’s filled with electrolytes and amino acids from double boiling chicken or pork for long hours. Planning your dietary intake during confinement through a Confinement food Singapore provider may be very helpful to keep your meals regular without much effort.

  • Eunice Tan In-house Dietitian

    Eunice Tan graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Dietetics with Nutrition from International Medical University. She is a certified Prenatal Dietitian, Accredited by Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association and also the in-house dietitian for Tian Wei Signature and ReLacto. With her expertise and interest in nutrition for women and diet planning, Eunice helps to support mothers get the key nutrients they need for recovery and lactation.